The nature of boxing is such that a given fighter may be only one or two well-placed punches away from sudden notoriety. Such has been the case many times over recent years, examples of which being Nonito “The Filipino Flash” Donaire’s perfectly timed left hook which pole-axed then streaking Vic Darchinyan, separating the Armenian from his senses, his run as an undefeated fighter and the IBF flyweight title, or Arthur Abraham’s last second straight right hand to the chin of Jermain Taylor. Both are examples of the kind of sudden shocking victory that makes fans want to see more. All that is needed is a mere moment and a fighter can go from being virtually invisible to suddenly in demand. Punch placement and God-given pure power can do that for a fighter as not all are blessed with such conclusive, natural fight-ending ability.
I’ve taken the liberty of compiling an updated list of the biggest punchers in boxing for 2010. The fighters listed are not in any particular order and their inclusion is of course open to debate, but I think you’ll agree with my submissions and that each is worthy of being followed in the weeks and months ahead as we go into 2011.
26-0, 21 KO’s
IBF super middleweight champion
There’s a reason southpaw “Le Tombeur” has been champion for three years. His exceptional focus, skill set and ring generalship aside, his sweeping left cross lands with the power of a ball-peen hammer. Whether it’s thrown as a cross, an uppercut, a short straight punch, or a body shot, when it lands the target typically crumbles. Watch Bute, he likes to box and move around, creating a false sense of security in his foe, but when he finds the target and commits his left hand the fight usually ends moments later.
Juan Manuel Lopez
29-0, 26 KO’s
WBO featherweight champion
Like the previous name on this list “Juanma” is an undefeated southpaw power puncher who has over time cultivated a reputation as a destructive aggressor bent on stopping foes as if he were double-parked. His 2008 campaign was electric. He fought four times and barely completed six rounds with three straight bouts being 1st- round stoppages. His right hook is unusually hurtful as is his laser-like straight left. He’s recently added a needed dimension of patience to his game. Expect more highlight reel stoppages from this gifted sharpshooter.
18-0, 15 KO’s
WBA World featherweight champion
The former Olympic gold medalist from Cuba, now living in Florida, sometimes reminds me of a young Mike Tyson. He comes out of the corner at the first bell angling to deliver destruction and his whirlwind follow-up is a thing of beauty. Wild at times, his crisp left hook sneaks through in subtle manner relative to his committed overhand rights, almost as though the right hand, a destructive finishing weapon on its own right, is used as a sort of hurtful distraction. Ultimately, if one hand doesn’t get you, the other will.
40-2, 38 KO’s
WBC heavyweight champion
Over the last two years “Dr.Ironfist” has won me over as a special heavyweight. His post-retirement body of work is beyond reproach. His awkward orthodox skill set, professional focus, underrated defense and sheer size would make him a formidable assignment for any great all-timer in a head to head battle dating all the way back to Jack Johnson. But one thing I’ve always liked about this Goliath is his penchant for throwing his punches in two’s and three’s. His KO ratio to date is unmatched by any heavyweight in history, but it’s the way he puts his awkward, angular shots together, particularly his right hand, tempering its hurtful intent based on opportunity, target and the moment in a given match.
54-3, 48 KO’s
IBF/IBO/WBO/Ring heavyweight champion
Like his older brother, “Dr.Steelhammer” fights out of the orthodox stance, but in this case, with added athletic prowess and at a much more measured pace. A sharpshooter by design, Wladimir typically softens his opposition up with a busy spearing left jab mixed with chopping right hands. In this manner he typically wins late with an accumulation of hurt, but in those instances where his short left hook has suddenly found the mark, the match quickly concludes.
31-1, 25 KO’s
As a middleweight the orthodox “King Arthur” gave us periodic glimpses of electrifying power. As a super middleweight, the term “brute” seems to be more appropriate, given his devastation of Edison Miranda in 2008 and his destruction of Jermain Taylor in 2009. Of particular note, Arthur’s short straight right hand, the one he used to flatten Taylor reminds me of the short straight right hand George Foreman used to throw.
29-1, 27 KO’s
The orthodox “El Chino” appears to be a one-dimensional slugger with two speeds and a block of granite for a chin, but it has to be said here, that single dimension is particularly spectacular when he gets his groove going. His right hand is a hurtful thing of beauty. He throws it like he’s swinging a baseball bat and when it lands properly he usually gets the home run.
26-0, 22 KO’s
“El Chocolatito” is perhaps the most overlooked KO artist active today. He had a solid two year run as the WBA World minimumweight champion and as of this writing is poised for a shot at the WBA World light flyweight title later this fall. Like the fighter listed just before him, he’s somewhat limited, constantly looking to fight in close for the sake of delivering his power. His left hook is particularly destructive, reminding me of a prime welterweight “Tito” Trinidad the way he slips it in during exchanges or outright commits to it looking to spark his foe. To the head or to the body, that left hook ranks right next to the most destructive bombs thrown by any fighter today.
23-0, 22 KO’s
I know Lemieux has yet to explode onto the scene or catch the attention of one of the major cable giants, but I cannot help myself, there is an unusually destructive aura about him. Just a shade over 5’10 and with a short reach, the orthodox-stance Montreal-based upstart typically leaves his corner in top gear after the first bell, usually ending matters sometime before round two comes to a close. His punches are short and compact, his delivery crisp and usually on the mark. His left hook is delivered in textbook fashion with a particular snap, making it a devastating thing of beauty. In his last start he devastated the usually reliable Elvin Ayala in less than one round, a feat that took Arthur Abraham over eleven rounds. Expect big things from this guy.
51-3-2, 38 KO’s
WBO welterweight champion
No list of punchers today would be complete without mentioning the current pound-per-pound king. That the southpaw Pacquiao has managed to move up beyond his natural weight class and stop naturally far bigger fighters, some of them especially known for their grit, speaks volumes about his talent, punch placement and power. Throwing his shots in combination, his right hook has become as devastating as his straight left and uppercut. Watch Pacquiao when he throws his power shots, they are short, crisp and delivered with a snap typically seen from only the very best all-timers.
24-1, 16 KO’s
An orthodox boxer first and a sharp-shooter second, “The Filipino Flash” looks nothing like the kind of destructive puncher his record indicates, but film is a wonderful thing and some of his KO’s are of highlight reel quality, particularly his one-punch stoppage of the otherwise durable Vic Darchinyan in 2007. Let’s hope we see him raise his level of competition at super flyweight. It can only serve to bring out the very best of him, which historically has equated to nothing short of dynamite.
27-2-1, 21 KO’s
“Vicious” Victor is good enough and destructive enough to level 90% of the foes he faces and just defensively flawed enough so that the result isn’t a guarantee. Let’s hope his improved game doesn’t get in the way of him letting his hands go with abandon.
36-2, 32 KO’s
“The Ghost” was at one time considered among the very best punchers in the sport, and while there can be no doubt he has heavy, numbing hands, his power is delivered in thudding fashion over rounds as opposed to a sudden explosive flash. Fighting out of the orthodox stance, Pavlik needs to spice up his game and add to the single dimension he has if he is going to continue to deliver that power with any level of effectiveness. All of that said opponents would be wise not to sleep on this guy.
17-0, 14 KO’s
The fight-ending single right hand shot Pirog used to level Daniel Jacobs literally stopped me in my tracks. This guy seems to have snuck up on the middleweight division. Kelly Pavlik, David Lemieux, take note.
24-1, 22 KO’s
WBA heavyweight champion
My favorite semi-retired loudmouth does most of his work from behind a closed closet door, but that aside, he tends to entertain with his near-annual appearances in the ring. His body of work at cruiserweight is beyond reproach, but he’s being judged here on his work as a heavyweight, sparse as that may be. The fact that Haye managed to flatten the iron-tough if aging John Ruiz to me speaks volumes about his power. That the “Hayemaker” appears less than fluid at times matters not, it’s his reckless abandon and sudden delivery that catches my eye. When in the ring he tends to be a chance-taker. The trick of course is getting him into the ring.